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HISTORY



OF



THE DIOCESE OF MEATH

BY

JOHN HEALY, LL.D.

Rector of Kelts, and Canon of St. Patrick's, Dublin

WITH

A PREFACE

BY

THE BISHOP OF MEATH

IN TWO VOLUMES



VOL I.



DUBLIN:

ASSOCIATION FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE
37 DAWSON STREET

1908



PRINTED BY

SEALY, BRYERS AND WALKER,

MIDDLE ABBEY STREET,

DUBLIN.



PREFACE.



IT is with great pleasure that I comply with the
request to write a brief Foreword to this Diocesan
History.

A writer well-known in the field of literature says :
" History, if it be only true, is, to my thinking, the
most interesting of studies ; and no novel or story-book
gives me so much pleasure as the finding out what
actually has happened to those who have gone before us
in the world." The many who by residence and family
or other connection have their interests and affections
bound up with the Diocese of Meath will, I am sure,
heartily welcome this record of "what actually has
happened to those who have gone before them."

But these volumes will appeal to a wider circle.
The observation of the late Sir William Wilde to the
effect that " the History of Ireland might be written
in tracing the banks of the Boyne" indicates that a
History of the Diocese of Meath must possess value
for all who seek acquaintance with the story of the
past of our country. Nowhere were the interests of
Church and State more closely interwoven. Meath



IV PREFACE

originally formed a separate Province, and in recog-
nition of its eminence as the Royal Kingdom of Meath
was constituted a Palatinate Bishopric, a distinction
that no other Bishopric in the United Kingdom can
claim, save that of Durham.

The late Professor Stokes, who did so much to
popularise the study of Irish Church History by the
publication of his Lectures on the Celtic and Anglo-
Norman Church, was ever keen in the contention that
a History of the Diocese of Meath ought to be written.
Some five-and-twenty years ago he published in the
Meath Diocesan Magazine a few papers suggestive
of what was to be desired. Sketches of the history of
individual parishes followed. The present work in
its ample reference to authorities will furnish great
assistance to those who desire to write such local
histories, but the purpose which Canon Healy has set
before him is one which in its achievement must prove
of much wider interest namely, to offer a general
view of the state of the Diocese, illustrated by the
most striking incidents occurrent in its several parts,
in the successive periods of History.

In the Celtic period we read of the labours of St.
Patrick and St. Cohimba, and of the work accomplished
in the schools of Clonard and Clonmacnoise.

In the Anglo-Norman times we read the story of the
Castles and the Abbeys, the ruins of which form so
conspicuous a feature in the landscape of many districts
in Meath.



PREFACE V

In the mediaeval period the internal conflicts of
Church and State which culminated in the Reforma-
tion movement and the dissolution of the monasteries
receive ample illustration.

The singular and entangled controversies of the
seventeenth century are duly set forth, and the later
developments of pre-Disestablishment and post-Dis-
establishment times are recorded until the History
brings us down to our own days. The process of
evolution which has left as its result the conditions
under which our Church now exists has thus been well
portrayed, and the strange vicissitudes of the past
with its occasions for regret or for thankfulness cannot
but afford to any thoughtful mind food for reflection
which may prove helpful in grappling with the problems
of the future.

Those who have attempted kindred work will best
realise the debt of gratitude due to Canon Healy for
the patience, the industry, and the skill which he has
displayed in culling from so many sources the curious
and instructive details which make up the story. Few
would now endorse the sentiment attributed, I think,
to Lord Melbourne, that the writing of History is the
literary task which makes least demands upon the
faculties of an author.

To discriminate between false and true, to weigh
evidence, to select the essential and important elements
out of a mass of crude material found in hitherto
unpublished manuscripts and recorded after the

b



VI PREFACE

uninspiring manner of the Annals of the Four Master*.
to assimilate and digest the contents, and invest the
whole with human interest all this is surely no slight
task to undertake.

Those who peruse these pages will, I am persuaded,
be convinced that Canon Healy possesses these qualifi-
cations in no small measure, and will join with me in
congratulating him on the success with which he has
accomplished so arduous a labour of love.

J. B MEATH.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.
FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY. Page

Ancient Kingdom of Meath Its importance Saint Patrick
Foundation of Trim Preaching at Tara Slane the
Shamrock Donaghpatrick Tribal form of Church
Government Churches founded by St. Patrick . . j

CHAPTER II.
COMPANIONS OF SAINT PATRICK.

Sechnall of Dunshaughlin his Hymn Cairnech of Dulane
the Misach Kenan of Duleek early association with
Patrick Ere of Slane Trena of Kildalkey Munis of
Forgney Loman of Portloman and Trim . . . . 10

CHAPTER III.
THE SCHOOLS OF CLONMACNOISE AND CLONARD.

Age of Scholars Description of an Irish " School " Finian
of Clonard the three classes of Irish Saints the Yellow
Plague Later History of Clonard Keiran of Clonmac-
noise Credibility of Irish Historical Documents
Remarkable Test Traditions Death of Keiran King
Diarmaid Antiquities at Clonmacnoise . . . . 17

CHAPTER IV.
DURROW AND KELLS.

Two great Missionaries Columbanus his Monastic Reforms
Columkill his Early Life his Ordination Bishop
Etchen of Clonfad Columban Abbots mostly Priests,
not Bishops Durrow its Foundation Bede Kells
Columkill's Lorica lona connection with Kells the
Book of Kells Book of Durrow High Crosses Round
Towers Croziers of Kells and Durrow . . . . 29



Vlll CONTENTS

Page
CHAPTER V.

THE CELTIC PERIOD.

Three Periods of Irish Church History Ardbraccan Ultan
Fechin of Fore Barind the Voyager Carthage of Ra-
han Lynally Trevet Balrathboyne Skryne Mixed
Monasteries the Norsemen Turgesius at Clonmacnoise
National Assembly at Rahugh Beginnings of
Diocesan Episcopacy -Church Property Charters m
the Book of Kells Vindictive Character of the Irish
Saints Influence of the Danes on the Irish Church
Introduction of the Cistertians Synod of Kells
Cardinal Paparo Meath formed into a Diocese . . 43

CHAPTER VI.

THE CONQUEST.

Invitation from the King of Leinster Strongbow Conquest
of Meath Hugh de Lacy his Position in Meath Death
of Tiernan O'Rorke Founding of Abbeys " Appropria-
tions " Exclusion of Irish Appointment of Bishop
Simon Rochfort Synod of Newtown Constitutions of
Synod Death of Bishop Rochfort . . . . 63

CHAPTER VII.

EPISCOPAL APPOINTMENTS.

Four Parties to an Election Bishop Rochfort 's Candidature
for Armagh Deodatus Walter de Brackley nominated
by the King Ralph le Petit elected by the Clergy
Election of Richard de la Corner Contest between
Geoffrey de Cusack and Hugh de Taghmon Action of
the Archbishop of Armagh Thomas St. Leger Appeal
to the Pope first Bishop by Papal Provision the
King's Prerogative . . . . . . . . 78

CHAPTER VIII.
ANGLO-NORMAN MONASTERIES.

Abbey Churches CISTERTIANS Bective Dispute about the
Body of Hugh de Lacy Kilbeggan AUGUSTINIANS
Clonard Ballyboggan Colpe Duleek Navan
Mullingar Kells Durrow Trim the" Idollof Trym "
a " Free Churchyard " Newtown Cathedral of
Meath Kilkenny West Skryne Nunneries of Clonard,
Lismullen, and Odder HOSPITALLERS Kilmainham
Wood Other Hospitals BENEDICTINES Ballvmore
Fore Beaubec CARMELITES Athboy Drogheda
Ardnacranna Ancient Stained Glass Kilcormack
DOMINICANS Mullingar Athlone Trim FRAN-
CISCANS Trim Multifarnham Slane . . . . 92



CONTENTS ix

Page
CHAPTER IX.

CHURCHES AND CLERGY.

Uses and Abuses of the old Abbeys Opposition to the
Religious Orders Appropriation Incomes of the Clergy
Value in present Money Clonmacnoise Duleek
Mullingar Pluralities Foreigners Incumbents not in
Holy Orders Minors Small size of Churches and
Parishes . . . . . . - . . . . 113

CHAPTER X.
INCIDENTS OF THE ANGLO-NORMAN PERIOD.

Excommunication and Interdict Dispute at Kells Mutual
Excommunication Archbishop Nicholas Archbishop
Roland National Synod of Trim Archiepiscopal
Visitation of Meath Arrogance of Bishops Dispute
about the Archdeaconry Killallon Protests against
Papal Interference . . . . . . . . 128

CHAPTER XI.
SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS.

William de Paul William St. Leger Election by Synod
Action of the Pope Nicholas Allen Pestilence
Stephen de Valle William Andrew his Controversy
with Henry Crumpe Alexander Petit Robert Moun-
tain Edward Dantsey Appointed Deputy Governor
of Ireland Strange charge against him William Hadsor
William Silk Appointed by the Council of Basil-
William Ouldhall His Quarrel with the Earl of Desmond
John Payne an Adherent of Simnel his Friendship
and Quarrel with the Earl of Kildare William Rokeby
Hugh Inge Richard Wilson Clonmacnoise Fighting
Bishops Plunder of Clonmacnoise United to Meath
State of the Revenues . . . . . . . . 142

CHAPTER XII.

DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIES.

Appointment of Bishop Staples the Ear) of Kildare and
Silken Thomas Devastation of Meath the King's
SupremacyParliament in Dublin King Henry rebukes
Staples Dissolution of the Monasteries Effect on the
Diocese of Meath Ruin of Abbey Churches State of
the Parish Churches Mismanagement of the Govern-
ment Dissolution of the Monasteries not part of the
Reformation 161



X CONTENTS

Page
CHAPTER XIII.

THE REFORMATION.

Royal Supremacy English-speaking Clergy Contention
between Staples and Archbishop Brown a Suffragan to
the Bishop of Meath Destruction of Images Com-
plaints of Staples Censured by the King Primate
opposes the English Service his Controversy with
Staples Primate deprived Accession of Queen Mary
Bishop Walsh . . . . . . . . . . 173



CHAPTER XIV.
THE REIGN OF QUEEN ELIZABETH.

Deposition of Bishop Walsh Act of Royal Supremacy
Bishop Brady his Character Proposal to found a
University State of the Diocese Letter of Sir Henry
Sydney Restoration of Churches Bishop Jones his
Sermon on Tolerance Censured by the Queen his
Reply . . . . . . . . . . 190



CHAPTER XV.
BISHOP JONES'S " CERTIFICATE OF THE DIOCESE OF MEATH."

State of Ireland at the end of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth
the O'Reillys in Meath Memoria for the better Refor-
mation of the Kingdom of Ireland Reply of the Deputy
and Council Certificate of the Diocese of Meath Jones
translated to Dublin . . . . . . . . 209



CHAPTER XVI.
THE REIGN OF JAMES I.

Bishop Roger Dod Bishop Montgomery his Episco-
pate in Clogher Absence in England Robert Draper,
Rector of Trim and Bishop of Kilmore Proposal to
found a University in Trim Episcopate of Bishop
Montgomery Church Fabrics Non-residence Bishop
Ussher Militant Romanism Letter of Rev. John
Carter List of Eminent Priests Doctor Dease, Roman
Catholic Bishop Incident at Kilkenny West Ussher's
Sermon on the Sword Offence taken at this Discourse
Translation of Ussher to Armagh . . . . . . 221



CONTENTS Xi

Page
CHAPTER XVII.

VISITATION OF MEATH, 1622.

Revenues of the Bishopric Alienations State of the
Churches Glebe Houses Non-residence Pluralities
Reading and Preaching Ministers Unordained Incum-
bents Clergy List Summary . . . . . . 241

CHAPTER XVIII.
THE REIGN OF CHARLES I.

Doctor Anthony Martin Laws against Romanism State of
the Church Restoration of Tithes Glebe Grants
Doctor Dease . . . . . . . . . . 258

CHAPTER XIX.
THE REBELLION OF 1641.

A Religious War Massacre of Protestants Depositions in
T.C.D. Reliability of the Evidence Disturbances in
Meath Navan John Sharp, Curate of Kells the Vicar
of Syddan Galtrim Influence of Dr. Dease Case of
the Vicar of Mullingar Tragedy at Kilbeggan Flight
of the Bishop . . . . . . . . . . 268

CHAPTER XX.
THE REBELLION OF 1641 (continued).

Culpability of the Parliamentary Party Position of the
Roman Catholic Gentry they join the Insurgents
Siege of Drogheda Synod of Kells Censure on Bishop
Dease the Cessation of Arms Case of the Minister of
Skryne the Papal Nuncio the King's Concessions
Battle of Dungon's Hill Death of King Charles . . 278



CHAPTER XXL
CROMWELL.

Drogheda Trim Appointments to various Parishes
Zephaniah Smith an unworthy Preacher List of
Cromwell's Preachers Schoolmasters . . . . 292



xii CONTENTS

Page
CHAPTER XXII.

THE RESTORATION.

The King proclaimed Church Order restored Bishop Henry
Leslie Bishop Jones his Career a Militant Bishop
Anthony Dopping Changes in the Diocese of Meath
Dopping's Sermon on Loyalty Another Sermon on the
same Text Dissent at Summerhill the Irish Bible . . 303

CHAPTER XXIII.
THE REIGN OF JAMES I.

Duke of Ormond Dismissed Attitude of the King towards
Protestants Position of Bishop Dopping he imprisons
a Roman Catholic Schoolmaster Parishes left vacant-
Career of King James in Ireland Repeal of the Act of
Settlement Disarming of Protestants Destruction of
Churches Strange Incident at Trim Progress of
Romanism Appointments intended to be made by King
James Dopping's Account of the Sufferings of Protes-
tants . . . . . . . . 317



HISTORY

OF THE

DIOCESE OF MEATH.



CHAPTER I.

FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY.

THE Diocese of Meath represents approximately in its
extent the ancient kingdom of the same name.
Originally there were, as at present, only four
provinces, but it is said that in the second century
of the Christian era, King Tuathal formed the
district of Meath into a separate territory by
taking a portion from each of the four provinces
of Ireland, and constituted these four portions
a royal demesne for the Ard-righ, or chief king,
of the land. 1 Within its confines was the palace of
Tara, which was the headquarters of whatever central
government existed in the country. In later years it
became the most important part of what was known
as " The Pale " the district which was colonized and
ruled by English adventurers, and in which the King
of England held undisputed sway. As far, therefore,
as the secular history of Ireland is concerned, Meath
is that portion of the country most intimately associa-
ted with the events which have been deemed worthy

1 Keating.

B



2 HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF MEATH

of record ; nor is its importance less when we come to
consider the story of the Church in Ireland. It was
here that the very earliest preachers of the Gospel
laboured ; it was round this district that the most
striking legends of St. Patrick centred ; it was here that
some of the most important schools and Church es-
tablishments were founded ; and it was here that, in
later years, the Norman abbeys flourished, many of
them on sites that had before been consecrated by the
founders of Celtic Christianity. To trace the history
of the Diocese of Meath is, therefore, in a great measure,
to tell the story of the rise and progress of the Irish
Church.

There has been some little controversy as to whether
Christianity existed in Ireland before the coming of
Saint Patrick. The fact that Palladius was sent as
bishop to the Irish who believed in Christ points in this
way, and there are traditions of earlier missionaries,
who had already laboured in the country before the
coming of our great apostle ; but, as far as Meath is
concerned, our earliest reminiscences are connected
with Patrick. According to the following account,
taken from the Book of Armagh, it would seem that
Meath was one of the first places in which he founded
a church*

When Patrick, with his holy companions in voyage, had
arrived in Ireland, he left holy Lomman in the mouth of the
Boind (Boyne) to guard the ship, forty days and forty nights ;
and then he remained another period of forty, after having
obeyed Patrick ; then, according to the command of his master,
he arrived, under the guidance of the Lord, against the stream,
as far as the ford of Trimm, at the door of the house of
Feidilmidh, son of Loigaire.

And when it was morning, Foirtchernn, son of Feidilmidh,
found him reciting the Gospel, and wondering at the Gospel
and his doctrine, straightway believed ; and there being an
open fountain in that place, he was baptised in Christ by



FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY 3

Lomman. And he stayed with him until his mother came to
seek him, and she rejoiced at the sight of him, for she was a
British woman. And she also believed in like manner, and
told to her husband all things that had happened unto herself
and unto her son. But Feidilmidh rejoiced at the coming of
the cleric, for his mother was of the Britons, viz., daughter of
the King of the Britons, viz., Scothnoe.

And Feidilmidh saluted Lomman in the British tongue,
asking him in order concerning his faith and family. He
answered him, " I am Lomman, a Briton, a Christian, the
disciple of Bishop Patrick, who is sent by the Lord to baptize
the tribes of the Irish, and to convert them to the faith of
Christ, who hath sent me hither according to the will of God."
And forthwith Feidilmidh believed, with all his family, and
he devoted to him and to holy Patrick his territory, with his
possessions, and with all his substances, and with all his race.
All these he devoted to Patrick and Lomman, and to Foirt-
chernn his son, unto the day of judgment.

And Feidilmidh passed across the river of Boind, and
remained at Clain Lagen, and Lomman remained with Foirt-
chernn at the ford of Trimm, until Patrick came to them, and
built a church with them, the twenty-second year before the
church of Armagh was founded.

Now the race of Lomman of the Britons was this : he
was the son of Gollit, and the sister of Patrick was his mother ;
and the brothers of Lomman are these Bishop Manis in
Forgney in the district of the Cuircne ; Broccaide in Imliuch
of horses, in Ciarrighe of Connacht ; Brocan in Brechmigh
among the Ui Borthim ; 2 Inngenog in Cill Dunnigluinn,3 in
the east of Bregia.

Now this is the proper race of Patrick by consanguinity
and by grace, by faith and baptism and doctrine. And
all that they had acquired of land, of territories, of churches,
and of all special oblations, they offered to holy Patrick for
ever.

But after some time, when Lomman's death was
approaching, he went with his disciple Foirtchernn to his
brother Broccaide ; and they went to salute his brother, him-
self and his disciple Foirtchernn.

2 This was the Broccan after whom the Church of Ardbraccan is named.
The Ui Borthim were a tribe inhabiting that district of Meath.

3 Cill Dunnigluinn is now called Kilgluin, and gives name to a townland
in the parish of Balfeaghan in the Union of Moyglare. See O'Donovan's
note, Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 834



4 HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF MEATH

And he committed his holy church to holy Patrick, and
to Foirtchernn. But Foirtchernn refused to hold the heritage
of his father, which he had offered to God and to Patrick ;
until Lomman said, " Thou shalt not have my blessing unless
thou accept the chieftainship of my church." He held the
chieftainship, however, for three days only after the death of
his master, until he arrived at the ford of Trimm, and then he
straightway gave his church to Cathlaid the pilgrim.4

The Book of Armagh was written some centuries after
the death of Saint Patrick, in an uncritical age, and by
men who were manifestly anxious to uphold and extend
the prerogatives of the See of Armagh. It was, however,
compiled from more ancient documents. While, there-
fore, we may not be prepared to accept unhesitatingly
all its statements, we must not, on the other hand,
reject too lightly the testimony which it gives. The
passage just quoted, at all events, tells us that there
was an old tradition that the Church in Meath was
founded before that in Armagh, and if the legend is to
be credited, it must have been one of the first fruits of
Saint Patrick's labours. The detail of a British woman
welcoming her fellow-countryman, and thus making the
way easy for his preaching not to mention the possi-
bility that she may not have been altogether ignorant
of Christianity lends a certain plausibility to the
narrative ; and the unusual absence of anything
miraculous in the story inclines us to give it the more
ready credence. The Lomman here spoken of was
sister's son to Patrick, and was one of those who
accompanied him from Britain on his missionary
expedition.

Another of the documents in the Book of Armagh
gives us the story, so well known, of Saint Patrick
preaching at Tara. The many embellishments with
which the tale is furnished might lead us to regard

* Todd, Life of St. Patrick, p. 257.



FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY 5

it with suspicion, but in its main outlines it is probably
a true recital. We are told that Patrick, sailing along
the coast, arrived at the mouth of the River Boyne,
where he left his boat, and made his way inland as far
as Slane. He arrived there on Easter eve, and pro-
ceeded to light a " Paschal fire." But at the same time
a heathen festival was being held at Tara, and part of
the ceremonial was that all the lights in the country
should be extinguished, to be relighted by a new fire
which the Druids were wont to obtain by friction. It
was believed that thereby good crops and general
prosperity would be secured. Great was the consterna-
tion, therefore, when on the distant hill the saint's fire
was perceived, and it is said that the druids assured the
king that " this fire which we see shall never be ex-
tinguished to all eternity unless we can put it out
to-night." The monarch thereupon ordered his chariot,
drove over to Slane, and summoned Patrick to appear
before him. He was manifestly the victim of a con-
siderable amount of superstitious fear, regarding the
saint as a superior kind of magician, and he felt by no
means reassured when Patrick came boldly forward
with his companions, chaunting the words of the Psalm,
" Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we
will remember the Name of the Lord our God." He
therefore professed friendliness, and invited Patrick to
appear before him at Tara, and explain his doctrine,
while at the same time he arranged that an ambush
should be laid on the way, by which treachery he hoped
to rid himself of the obnoxious missionary. But when
the watchers returned to find that Patrick and his
followers had arrived before them, and when they
reported that there had passed them, as they watched,
a small herd of deer, equal in number to that of the
party of Christians, even the king's druids began to



6 HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF MEATH

take fright, and to think that they had to do with men
who could change their forms at will, and who no doubt
had many other supernatural powers.s

According to the legend they were not long before
they saw those miraculous powers displayed. One of
these druids presented Patrick with a cup of poisoned
drink, and the Saint perceiving this, "blessed the cup,
and the liquor became like ice, and the vessel being
turned, that alone fell out which the magician had put
into it, and he again blessed the cup, and the liquor was
restored to its natural state." Then the druid brought
snow on the earth, but Patrick challenged him to
remove it again, and he confessed his inability to do
so. " You have power to do evil, but not good," was
the rejoinder ; " it is not so with me " and the saint
immediately caused the snow to melt. After that the
druid brought darkness, but was unable to dispel it ;
and Patrick once more showed his power, at once
superior and beneficent. Finally they agreed to a trial
by fire, and in a story which recalls that of the Book
of Daniel, we are told how the druid was consumed,
whereas the Christian came out unhurt. According to
the Book of Armagh, all this resulted in the conversion
of the king, who said to his elders : " It is better that
I should believe than die " ; but there is reason to
believe that no such happy result ensued. On the
contrary, it is almost certain that King Leary died, as
he lived, a heathen and an unbeliever.

It is in connection with this incident that Saint
Patrick is said to have used the shamrock as an emblem
or representation of the doctrine of the Trinity. The
legend, however, is of comparatively late origin, and
does not appear in any of the earlier records. Of much
greater antiquity is the tradition that the hymn known

8 Life of St. Patrick in the Book of Armagh.



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